International Child Care
Health and wholeness for children and families in empowered communities

Reflections of a Physical Therapist in Haiti

After being in the Dominican Republic in October 2011 to see, first hand, ICC’s successful 20-year program of rehabilitation for children with disabilities, it was a joy and a privilege to travel to Port-au-Prince in June of 2012 to help launch Haiti’s own community based rehabilitation (CBR) program for children with disabilities.  Our team of seven (three physical therapists, a nurse, a social worker, a physician assistant and a pastor) was thrilled to provide four days of seminar training on normal growth and development, intervention strategies when cognitive and motor delays are noted, asthma recognition and treatment, and addressing the psychosocial needs of children with disabilities as well as their families and surrounding communities.  Our message was clear.  All children with disabilities deserve the chance to maximize their potential as they strive to live full and productive lives. Rehabilitation services provide an important start, but it really “takes a village”.

Jenn Gwin and Ann Nagle work to position Kenny in standing.

More than fifty participants listened attentively, asked thoughtful questions, and participated enthusiastically in discussions and lab sessions with children.  Attendees were parents and family members of children with disabilities, community members interested in the CBR program at Grace Children’s Hospital, Grace community health workers who are already on the front line in their communities, mamas on the ward (Grace employees who double as caregivers of inpatient children when needed), and the first five graduates of the CBR training program in Haiti.

The five new Community Inclusion workers with Altagrace at their graduation

These five special women may not realize it, but they are true pioneers.  In 20 years, when the CBR program in Haiti is providing services to thousands of children (as the DR program does today), I will look back and remember these five women who were the first!  They will be the example for dozens of CBR workers to come.  One of the highlights of our seminar was the opportunity to see these women officially recognized as graduates of the program.  When they were presented with certificates of completion of the CBR training program, I could see the pride in their faces and the hope ahead for children in Haiti.  Another highlight was observing these women in action in the community as they provided one on one care to children in their homes.

Jenn Gwin and Ann Nagle work to position Kenny in standing. Wilson (background)

The success of this teaching trip was due, in no small part, to the dedicated professional staff at Grace Children’s Hospital.  Trudy Bekker, ICC Director of Rehabilitation, Altagracia Alexis, Haiti’s Director of Rehabilitation, and Robenson Lucceus, ICC’s Public Relations Director in Haiti did a first rate job of organizing the seminar from their end.   These individuals recruited seminar participants, scheduled children for lab sessions, arranged for expert translators and transportation, meals for participants, as well as many other behind the scenes details.  

Jenn Gwin working at home with Peter.

Almost one year of planning and preparation was necessary for our six-day trip.  But such careful planning will pay big dividends.   It has cemented Epworth’s commitment to partner with ICC as they build the CBR program in Haiti.  This trip will be the first of many regular teaching trips as we help to advance the clinical education and training of these important caregivers. 

- Jo Hartman, MS, PT
  Member, Epworth UMC